32 cheap European city breaks for an affordable getaway

Cheap European city breaks for an affordable holiday | PACK THE SUITCASES

I wanted to put together a post about cheap European city breaks because it’s January as I’m typing this and I don’t know about you, but I’m broke as a joke. Affordable, cheap trips are sounding very appealing RN.

This post is going to be a tad different from my usual waffle. As well as sharing some cheap European city breaks that I’ve enjoyed doing myself, I thought I’d get some inspiration from others. So I asked around a group of fellow travel bloggers and they obliged me with loads of affordable holiday ideas that I’ve never done myself. I added another few of my own and voila – here you have this huge list of 32 cheap European city breaks to give you some food for thought for your next trip on a budget.

Get comfy with a cup of tea. It might take you a while to read this one…

1. Sofia, Bulgaria

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Sofia is one of Europe’s oldest cities, with sweeping boulevards, cobbled streets and a surprising amount of Roman ruins. Gritty, concrete Soviet architecture sits side-by-side with ornate golden cathedrals. There are plenty of very cheap but still trendy places to eat and drink. And by drink, I mean do your insides some damage from the local tipple, rakia. Be warned: it burns and the Cyrillic alphabet will be even harder to read as you’re trying to find your route back on the metro after a few glasses.

Sofia has a wonderfully laid-back atmosphere as a city, with lots of quirks of Bulgarian culture to discover while you’re there. When communicating with locals, nodding your head means ‘no’ and shaking it means ‘yes’ – this is something that’s always stuck in my mind. I loved it!

Sofia is truly underrated for some reason, but is a brilliant, cheap and interesting first experience of Eastern Europe.

You can read my full post on things to do in Sofia here. Many of them are entirely free, and all are very affordable.

Looking for where to stay in Sofia? I really enjoyed the incredibly cheap but massive room I got at Hotel Favorit.

2. Ljubljana, Slovenia

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I had a brilliant few days in Ljubljana, Slovenia. That’s Lub-liana, by the way. But Loob-lana to the locals. So now you know.

I’m not sure if it was the amazing food, the riverside café culture or the fairytale beauty of the whole city swathed in autumn light that made me fall in love with Ljubljana, but I’ll definitely be back.

Ljubljana city is really charming. The old town is a gorgeous, cobbled part of the city, sandwiched between the imposing hill-top castle and the Ljubljanica river. It’s like someone decided it’d look nice as a backdrop to a city and so just went ahead and built it.

Ljubljana shares many of the qualities I love about Scandinavia: green, clean, pretty, everything being good quality, a general feeling of calmness. And as much as I adore our Scandinavian holidays, they do have a painful impact on my bank balance. Ljubljana ticked all the Scandi boxes without the painful price tags.

Right, I actually give up trying to fit in how much I love Ljubljana here. You’ll have to go to my posts about it. You can read my Ljubljana travel guide here as well as where to eat in Ljubljana.

Looking for where to stay in Ljubljana? I loved Apartment House Trta, on the banks of the river.

3. Funchal, Madeira island, Portugal

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Wildly underrated, Madeira’s capital has all the ingredients you need for an excellent city break: cobbled streets, a cable car, culture, coastal views and custard tarts. And probably more things not beginning with ‘C’. Oh yes, it’s CHEAP.

But surely no one goes to Madeira for a city break, I (pretend to) hear you cry. Actually, yes they do. Or at least I do. And it works very well thanks.

You can use Funchal as a base, taking public transport for days out around the island when you’ve had enough of shopping and sightseeing. The city centre itself is typically Portuguese – beautiful, laid back and with a real café culture. It’s also a university city, so although the stereotypes of old British tourists loving Madeira are rooted in some truth, Funchal has plenty of younger locals and is really vibrant.

I won’t bang on too much about everything you can do in Funchal on a city break because I have it all in great detail around the blog. You can read my posts about:

Yes, I’ve written absolutely loads about this city, and I bloody love it.

Looking for where to stay in Funchal? I massively recommend my favourite B&B, Quinta São Gonçalo. It’s pink.

4. Zagreb, Croatia

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As you’ll know, Croatia isn’t somewhere people associate with city breaks because it’s usually all about the coastline. When I booked a city break to the capital of Zagreb, I was met with blank looks when I mentioned it to people. I don’t know why it’s so massively overlooked because it made for a really interesting, hip and cheap city break.

As well as being full of interesting and fairly recent history and having absolutely amazing food and local craft beer, Zagreb also has some of the most unusual museums I’ve ever been to, which are either free or very cheap to get into. So this makes it a really quirky place for culture lovers.

The Museum of Broken Relationships and the Croatian Museum of Naive Art are both not to be missed. The former was particularly memorable. Basically, the concept is that when a relationship breaks down, people from all over the world can send in an item in to the museum from that broken relationship. They provide an anonymous caption to go with it, explaining its significance. It’s all SO well done. A unique and quirky museum that’ll make you wee yourself laughing and have to pretend not to be crying in public, all within the first few exhibits. Brilliant!

You can read my full post on three days in Zagreb here.

Looking for where to stay in Zagreb? I liked Praska 8 Apartments, which couldn’t get more central on a side road off the main square.

5. Bucharest, Romania

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Many people seem to just use Bucharest as somewhere to fly into Romania and immediately leave to head for the countryside. But it’s definitely a city worth spending a few days in in its own right.

Often heralded as ‘the new Berlin’, Bucharest full of gritty architecture, surprising green spaces, and hip places to eat and drink. It has a real ‘alternative’ vibe to it. Like most of Eastern Europe, it’s very affordable for British/Western European tourists, which is always a big draw: we had three-course meals for <£20.

Not going to lie, it’s also pretty grubby and the train stations especially are dilapidated AF. But if you look past that, it has grand Parisian-style architecture lining wide boulevards, a thriving café culture, and a fascinating, unique history. It’s the perfect city for a cheap ‘foodie’ city break.

You can read my full post on things to do in Bucharest here.

Looking for where to stay in Bucharest? I liked Le Boutique Hotel Moxa, which was really well located.

Fellow travel bloggers’ ideas for cheap European city breaks

Right, that’s the end of my bit.

Onto the cheap European city break suggestions from other travel bloggers

6. Vilnius, Lithuania

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If you’re looking to go for a cosmopolitan city break on the cheap, then look no further than Vilnius, Lithuania. Though this Baltic capital doesn’t get nearly the amount of attention it deserves – especially when compared to nearby capitals like Tallinn or Riga – there are a number of fun and interesting things to do in Vilnius. It also happens to be one of the most affordable cities in Europe!

Visiting for a short getaway or a long weekend is the ideal amount of time to get to know the city. Spend one day exploring the beautiful baroque old town, which is one of the largest in Europe, and spend the next day checking out the bohemian ‘independent republic’ of Uzupis just on the other side of the old town.

Vilnius also has a thriving, up-and-coming restaurant and bar scene and eating and drinking out is quite affordable. On average, a meal at a mid-range restaurant for dinner will rarely cost more than £10 per person, including wine and a starter.

If you want to save money on accommodation, then Airbnb is a great option. There are numerous listings on the platform and a private, one bedroom apartment in the old town will average about £25 per night.

All in all, the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius is one of the best cities to choose if you’re after an affordable getaway in Europe.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Maggie from The World Was Here First.

7. Gdansk, Poland

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Gdansk is one of the most beautiful cities in Poland, but definitely not the most expensive one. There are so many hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, that every traveler can afford to visit this amazing seaside city.

Let’s have a look at the exemplary prices in Gdansk for travellers on a budget.

During our long-weekend stay in Gdansk in November 2018, we stayed in High 5 Hostel. Two nights in a double room with shared bathroom costed us 290 PLN (£60), breakfast included. What’s more, the hostel is conveniently located in Gdansk Old Town, so we saved money on transportation.

Vegan food in Gdansk is also affordable – a meal for two with drinks costs about 70 PLN (£14). What I need to mention here is that the food we tried in Manna vege restaurant was the best we have ever eaten!

When it comes to free tourist attractions in Gdansk there are many interesting options:

  • Westerplatte – must-see historical site. Symbolizes the beginning of World War II.
  • Oliwa park – beautiful municipal park; a perfect getaway.
  • Oliwa Archcathedral – 16th-century sacral monument built in baroque and rococo style. A treat for architecture lovers.
  • St. Mary’s Church – one of the largest brick churches in the world.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Joanna from Overhere.

8. Riga, Latvia

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Every year, two of my close friends and I take a long weekend away together. Our only stipulation regarding where we go is that the whole three-night trip has to cost less than £100 each (including flights and accommodation; excluding spending money). One of these trips was to Riga, Latvia – whose old town (now a UNESCO World Heritage site) is a a fairytale kingdom of gothic spires and winding, cobbled lanes flanked with pastel-coloured gingerbread-style houses.

We visited in February – one of the coldest months, and also one in which it snows a lot. But fairy tale kingdoms always look more magical when covered in a light dusting of the white stuff. It’s also a cheap month to travel there: we paid just £30 per person for our return flights from Liverpool.

While in Riga we we chose to stay in an apartment right on the edge of Riga’s historic centre, which came with it’s very own hammam! Yes, you’ve read that right: an apartment complete with private steam room! And we only paid £147 for it for three nights!

Riga is also a really affordable place to eat and drink. One of my favourite eating and drinking haunts was Folkklubs – an underground bar/restaurant/live music venue located in a former wine cellar that dates back to the 13th century. The three of us managed to consume one cheese platter, three main courses, three litres of ale, three half pints of various craft ales, and four shots of black balsam for just £40!

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Kiara from Gallop Around The Globe.

9. Budapest, Hungary

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With its sweeping views of the Danube, impressive architecture, delicious food scene, legendary nightlife, and glamorous cafes, it’s hard to believe that Budapest comes at such an inexpensive price.

Though it costs far less to explore than European hotspots like Rome, Paris, and Vienna, Budapest is an absolute dream of a city, able to combine an impressive, if occasionally worn, regality with a comfortable, cozy atmosphere that makes it a gem to explore.

A delicious Hungarian meal at a sit-down restaurant can come to well under $10.00 USD, and a bowl of mouthwatering goulash soup for lunch might be as little as $3.50! Many tourist attractions are free (Fisherman’s Bastion, Great Market Hall, Heroes Square), and others are available for just a small fee (climbing to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica, visiting some of Budapest’s quirky and offbeat museums).

While some popular tourist attractions include prices that reflect their popularity (the Instagram-famous Szechenyi Baths come to mind, which cost around $20.00 USD), it’s easy to balance out the occasional splurge with Budapest’s overall low costs to make a trip to Budapest a very affordable European city break!

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Kate from Our Escape Clause.

10. Girona, Catalonia, Spain

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Girona is the perfect city break in Europe. Located in Catalonia, in Northeastern Spain, one of the best reasons why it’s a great city break destination is that it’s the perfect alternative to one of the top destinations in Europe – Barcelona. There is a reason why Barcelona is so popular, but in recent years it’s become over-touristed. It’s crowded and getting expensive. Girona is the perfect alternative.

You can fly into Barcelona or there are some flights into Girona directly. Girona is also accessible by train, even from Paris. Or, Girona is only 38 minutes by high speed train from Barcelona, meaning it’s a great day trip from Barcelona.

Wander the medieval old town, or stop at a traditional Catalan restaurant for a menu del dia, a class three-course lunch including wine or beer. A typical menu del dia at most Girona restaurants will only cost £10-15 per person. They also filmed some scenes for Game of Thrones in Girona, in part because it’s such a beautiful and historic city.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Amber from With Husband in Tow.

11. Toledo, Spain

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On a recent Spanish Road Trip, we stopped at one of my favourite cities, Toledo.

The views of the UNESCO heritage designated Old Town, surrounded by the River Tagus, on the drive down are fantastic. You could spend the day wandering the cobbled medieval streets. Make sure you make time to visit the impressive Cathedral and the Monastery of San Juan de los Reye.

For me, I am all about the walking and Toledo is situated in a stunning setting. Make time to take a stroll along the river and walk around the Alcántara bridge to appreciate some of the best views. This was a highlight for my dog Daisy!

We also braved the queues at the Santo Tome Bakery to sample the famous local almond based sweet Mazapán and stopped at one of the many Tapas bars and enjoyed ten tapas and a bottle of wine for 10 euros!

We visited in January and got an amazing deal at the 5-star Cigarral El Bosque Hotel. For a beautiful, large twin room with an outdoor eating area and amazing views, it was just 55 euros. The hotel is about half an hour from the main attractions but the walk was no hardship.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Gemma from A Girl and Her Dog On The Road.

12. Coimbra, Portugal

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The best way to save money in Europe? Go outside the big cities to explore. In Portugal that means Coimbra over Lisbon and Porto. The city has plenty of history, especially around the famed University of Coimbra. Be sure to get here during lunch-time when the tour crowd checks out and you can enjoy some great views of the place almost to yourself. Check out the old and new cathedrals and peek into the fascinating Science Museum. Although uphill and down, all the major attractions are walking distance from each other so you save transportation money as well.

If you have an ear for music, or actually even if you don’t, be sure to check out the local fado scene as its slightly different from the rest of Portugal. There’s plenty to keep you occupied after dusk, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as the city’s huge student population steps out with many establishments staying open until late in the night, all without spending more than 30-40 euros in the entire day minus your stay.

While Portugal is anyway a cheap country compared with its Western European neighbours, Coimbra is even cheaper. It will leave you with plenty of memories and cash in your wallet for your next destination.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Priyanko from Constant Traveller.

13. Ostrava, Czech Republic

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Ostrava is a great add-on to visiting Prague in the Czech Republic. Located just a 3-hour train ride away, Ostrava offers cheap dining and accommodation and an authentic feel that more popular tourist destinations often lack.

The third largest city in the Czech Republic receives far fewer tourists than Prague, and it shows in the pricing of things. You can get yourself a pint of beer from tap for less than £1.50. If you’d rather have a cup of coffee, expect to pay just as much for a quality cappuccino. A main course during lunchtime can cost you just £3.

Ostrava is a city with history of mining. This translates into rebuilt industrial venues (of which one is where the famous Colours of Ostrava music festival takes place) and unique features such as beautiful green hills originally made up of slag heaps.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Veronika from Travel Geekery.

14. Minsk, Belarus

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Until its independence in 1991, Belarus used to be part of the Soviet Union. Shortly after its split, this young nation decided to approach the rest of the world pretty conservatively. It remained closed off, especially from tourism, until recently.

Minsk is a hidden gem. At the first glance, the city radiates the gray and coldness of Soviet architecture. Soon after you get past the initial shock, you will find so many amazing things you can do in this incredible city. Some of Minsk’s cool museums, for example the Museum of the Ministry of Internal Affairs or Great Patriotic War Museum, welcome visitors with interesting artifacts of Belarusian history and culture. You can also visit the laid back Cat Museum, or the National Library of Belarus.

If you are a foodie, try some Belarusian food, such as draniki, machanka, or familiar dumplings. In Minsk, there is plenty to explore and to taste!

For the full experience, stay at the Dreamy Castle Hostel, where John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, used to live. There are plenty of hostels and cheap accommodation you can book here if you’re a budget traveler. But we recommend trying the three-star Belarus Hotel. And the best part: it’s still pretty inexpensive!

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Halef from The Round The World Guys.

15. Split, Croatia

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Split is one of the top summer destinations together with Dubrovnik. Although this alluring place is touristy and one can immediately think it is pricey, the reality is different. You can make your stay economic.

Good news for culture lovers: there is free admission to some museums (the City Museum, Ethnographic Museum, and Natural History Museum) and half price for some galleries. You can get discounts at some of the city’s best restaurants, theatres, shops, excursions, and car rentals with a SplitCard, which you can get for free at a tourist information centre.

Many of the most interesting sights are also free, including the Diocletian Palace, the city’s landmark. Around there are many corners, squares and alleys worth exploring.

At Stari Pazar (‘green market’), you can find good quality and local food at affordable prices. There is a huge variety of fruit and vegetables, nuts, cheeses etc. It is even possible to haggle before your purchase. Some examples of prices in the market: 1kg of apples is 8kn (<£1), 1kg of local cheese is 58kn (<£7). Private accommodation for 2 people in peak season is from around £26 per night.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Leo from Safari Nomad.

16. Warsaw, Poland

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We fell in love with the capital of Poland after our Erasmus in Warsaw, and have returned to the city a few times since. Warsaw truly is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. It is everything you expect from a European capital, and more. The architecture is incredibly diverse, from the rebuilt and incredibly charming Old Town, to the characteristic communist architecture, and the modern skyline at the financial district that has been built in recent years.

Warsaw has something for everyone: from castles and palaces to interesting and quirky museums and attractions. Even after living there for 6 months, we were not able to see everything. The city is also perfect for nature lovers as it is one of the greenest in the continent, with plenty of parks all around and even two national parks near the suburbs.

The cherry on top of all of this is that Warsaw is an incredibly affordable destination, especially when compared to other cities in the region. We rented an apartment in the centre of the Old Town for 35€ a night, and even in the most touristic areas you can easily dine out (delicious Polish or international food) for well under 10€. You can travel around the city using the high-quality and low-cost public transportation system, and even the most famous attractions are affordable.

With thanks to fellow travel bloggers Maria and Rui from Two Find A Way.

17. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

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Bulgaria’s second-largest city and one of the oldest continually inhabited settlements in Europe (and the whole world, for that matter), Plovdiv is an incredibly affordable city break.

Whether you choose to visit as a day trip from Sofia or stay for a couple of nights, there is no shortage of free and cheap historical and cultural attractions to fill your days. Start with a free walking tour of the city to get oriented. Admission to some of the most popular sites, including the Roman Theatre and the Ethnographic Museum, costs 5-6 Lev (2-3 Euro).

You can easily get by on a tight food budget in Plovdiv. A Bulgarian lunch at a local restaurant costs under 4 Lev; or you can grab a doner kebab (Plovdiv’s are said to be the best in the country) for even less. A glass of craft beer or local wine in the trendy Kopana neighbourhood will set you back a little bit more than a local brew, which you can find for under 1 Lev.

Plovdiv is also home to a bevvy of well-priced accommodations. A bed at Hostel Old Plovdiv will set you back 10 Euro a night.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Emily from Wander-Lush.

18. Tbilisi, Georgia

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Georgia in Eastern Europe is a lesser-visited destination, full of history, architecture and cultural diversity. Tbilisi is a beautiful small city guarded by hills, where every corner of the city screams vintage European vibes.

It is a perfect pocket-friendly city to travel on a budget. The city has many hotels and hostels and a night stay in a hostel will cost on average around £8-12. Transportation is easy as the city is linked with an underground metro network, which can be accessed by a <£1 metro card.

There are various options to eat at in Tbilisi, including the local cuisine, Turkish and Indian food as well. One can have a huge meal just for a price of £4.

Most of the best activities to Tbilisi are free of cost. Mt. Mtatsminda is a great way to get a panoramic view of the city from the top of the mountain, which can be reached by a funicular railway that costs <£1. The Nirakala Fortress and the iconic Mother of Georgia sculpture can be reached by a cable car ride costing only £1.50.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Rahma from The Sane Adventurer.

19. Istanbul, Turkey

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Istanbul is the ultimate budget-friendly city in Europe (at the moment). Unfortunately, Turkey’s currency (the Lira) plummeted in 2018, making Istanbul the most attractive city for travellers looking for a bargain.

This autumn, we spent 7 weeks in this amazing metropolis. We stayed in 3 different districts (Kadıköy, Beyoğlu, Şişli) and 5 different neighbourhoods on both the Asian and European sides. Without a doubt, the most affordable neighbourhood is Moda in Kadıköy.

On average, we spent around £12 per night for a private room in an Airbnb for 2 people. Note: the average AirBnB ranges between £28 (Moda) and £60 (Sultanahmed) per night for 2 people.

An upscale and delicious Turkish breakfast costs about 50 TL (£7.30) per person and a local draft beer is around 15 TL (£2.20). A ride with public transit costs 3 TL (<£1) when you have an Istanbulkart, which makes getting around the city really affordable. Besides that, Taxis are really cheap too.

So, if you want to have a budget holiday in Istanbul, you need to:

  • stay in Moda, Kadıköy – use AirBnB to find the best deals
  • buy an Istanbulkart transit card (6 TL) – this will save you money on every ride; instead of paying 5 TL per ride, you pay 3 TL with this card
  • eat at Lokantas, which are traditional cafeterias.

With thanks to fellow travel bloggers Sabrina and Katrin from Moon & Honey Travel.

20. Sarajevo, Bosnia

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I love cities where I don’t have to mind about my wallet when I want a cup of tea in a cosy cafe and where I don’t have to check the menu prices before sitting down. Among Europe’s cities, there are few budget-friendly places left, but Sarajevo is definitely one of them.

Bosnia’s capital is one of my favourite city breaks in Europe. The charming old town reflects the city’s interesting history, with churches, mosques and plenty of teahouses and traditional restaurants.

Sarajevo is not a big city and therefore it is easy to walk around. There is no need for taxis and the tram is less than a euro if you choose to use it. For accommodation, there are plenty of hostels and options on Airbnb that start as low as 15 euros per night.

The biggest draw is the delicious Bosnian cuisine. Sarajevo has some great restaurants where you can treat yourself on a full meal for less than 10 euros. To keep things really cheap, you can visit the bakeries for some delicious burek, pastries filled with meat, cheese or spinach that make a filling breakfast or lunch. Another inexpensive lunch for only a couple of euros is cevapi, the Bosnian version of kebab.

With plenty to see and do for such a small city, Sarajevo offers value for money. For 30 or 40 euros per day, you can have a great time in one of Europe’s most multicultural cities where east meets west.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Ellis from Backpack Adventures.

21. Budva, Montenegro

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For us, a top budget destination for a European break was Montenegro and we opted for Budva – known as the Montenegrin Riviera.

While neighbouring cities such as Dubrovnik in Croatia have cashed in on the tourist prices, Budva remains a low-cost destination with fantastic low prices for travel and accommodation during off-peak season.

You can do lots for free, like exploring Budva’s Old Town, diverse cultural and political history, nearby fishing towns and secluded coastal spots. But if you want to head out further to cities such as Kotor or to see the national parks, public transport is also regular and cheap. For example, the 30-minute trip between Budva and Kotor is approximately €3. If you’d rather join an organised tour, expect to pay around €25 per person for a full day, though we spotted some as low as €12!

A typical low-cost lunch such as a pizza slice or burger was around €2 or a sit-down meal was under €10 per person. One additional cost that is worth noting is Montenegro’s tourist tax, which works out around €1 per person per day but luckily only applies to those who are staying in private accommodation such as rentals or Airbnbs.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Kirstin from The Tinberry Travels.

22. Kiev, Ukraine

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Kiev, Ukraine is one of the most overlooked yet very interesting capitals in Europe. You can find there UNESCO listed Orthodox churches with golden domes, monumental architecture in the socialist realism style and amazing parks – just to name a few attractions. But monuments are not the only reason why it’s worth to visit Kiev.

The capital of Ukraine is a very affordable city. I don’t think there was any other place where I paid so little for such a good quality. To give you few examples – you can get a solid lunch for some €3, beer for a bit over €1, metro ride for €0,25 and you can find a decent hotel in the centre for €30-40/night.

It’s best to visit Kiev in the summer time when the city is alive and the vibrant atmosphere makes you want to stay outside until late evening hours. And once you are done with the sightseeing, you can go to the beach at the shore of Dnieper river still in the centre!

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Kamila from My Wanderlust.

23. Madrid, Spain

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Madrid, Spain is one of the most affordable capital cities in Western Europe, and a much cheaper place to visit than places like Paris, Amsterdam, London, or Vienna. You can spend a luxurious weekend in the Spanish capital without breaking the bank.

Since socialising around food and drink is such an integral part of Spanish culture, going out for a quality meal or tapas is very reasonable. A glass of wine costs between 1.50-3.50 euros, a beer between 1-3 euros (more for craft beer), a cocktail is between 7-10 euros, and the daily 3-course lunch special is between 8-13 euros.

Although you might never use it because Madrid is so walkable, public transportation is efficient, clean, and cheap. A ticket for travel in the city centre is between 1.50-2 euros.

There are also many free activities to do in Madrid. All of the world-class museums have free evenings or days so there’s no need to spend a lot of money on attractions either. Museums without free days are only a few euros.

Finally, Madrid is a major airport hub, so flights are very affordable from across Europe as well as major U.S. cities.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Sam from Alternative Travelers.

24. Tirana, Albania

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One of my most favourite cheap European cities to visit is Tirana, Albania. The country is one of the last European countries that isn’t very well explored at all. You can find real wilderness, friendly people and beautiful towns all throughout the country.

When it comes to Tirana, you will find cheap accommodation, food and transport. The city itself has quite a few interesting museums. And you can find bunkers from the communist time all throughout the city of Tirana and the country.

The city of Tirana is surrounded by mountains and has a mysterious touch. For one night in one of the best hostels in Tirana, I paid around 7 euros. The currency of Albania, the Albanian Lek, makes it affordable for most people to travel through the country and to explore Tirana and its clubbing and food culture to the max. If I was in need of a great but quick lunch, I was going to find one of the best burak in town. And what did that great local, Albanian food cost me? Less than one euro!

So, if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path and cheap European city to visit, Tirana is the one.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Manon from Visiting The Dutch Countryside.

25. Heraklion, Crete

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When people think of visiting Crete, they typically think of relaxing on one of many beautiful Crete beaches. However, I love combining beach time in Crete with a city break, and Heraklion is a fabulous place for a quick city getaway. The city is full of picturesque cafes, Venetian city squares, and gorgeous Orthodox churches.

In the middle of the high season, Heraklion can be a bit pricey. However, you’ll always be able to find cheap street food and great free things to do.

My personal recommendation to do Crete on a budget is to go off-season. During the shoulder and off-season, you can find amazing hotel deals, like hotel rooms for 16 to 20 euros a night. Combine that with 4 euro gyros, 2 euro suvlaki, and tons of complimentary raki, and you can keep your overall trip budget very low. In addition, there are great flight deals to Crete from almost anywhere in Europe year-round.

Crete is one of my secret budget destinations, and it’s even better per person if you travel with friends.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Stephanie from Sofia Adventures.

26. Athens, Greece

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Athens is often overlooked as a cheap European city break – many people just pass through on their way to the islands, and so miss one of the most fascinating and affordable capitals on the continent.

Visiting the archaeological site of the Acropolis is one of the more expensive activities these days, with tickets now €20 – but check the official site for free admission days. All of the city’s major archaeological sites can be viewed from the streets though (or – even better – from one of its many roof terraces).

There’s plenty to see and do that won’t break the bank. There are countless cafes and small museums tucked away, a thriving creative scene and some excellent street art. You can even hop to the coast or an island for just a few euros.

Dining out in Athens is particularly affordable as there’s a strong local tradition of eating out. Tavernas are great value if you’re in a group (around €15 per person for a feast). If not, don’t fret – pretty much every other building in Athens is some kind of bakery, cafe or bar where you can linger for hours over excellent coffee and snacks (expect to pay around €4 for a sit-down coffee with a view, but as little as €1.50 for a takeaway coffee from the backstreets). And of course there’s the ubiquitous gyros for a few euros. Hotels can be a tad overpriced and dated, but the apartment rentals and hostel scenes are booming and still good value.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Steph from The Mediterranean Traveller.

27. Kotor, Montenegro

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Montenegro, with its dramatic mountains, stunning rivers and gorgeous beaches, is fast becoming a tourist hotspot.

Kotor is one of Montenegro’s highlights and in 2016 Lonely Planet named it the number one city to visit in the world. The Old Town has been given UNESCO world heritage site status due to the preservation of its 12th and 14th century architecture and wandering the flagstone alleyways of Kotor is like stepping back in time.

Climb the fortified walls up to St Johns Fortress, cuddle one of the hundreds of stray cats, watch the world go by in one of the town squares, visit the clock tower or take a peek in the churches. You can even do a day trip to the picturesque village of Perast.

Despite its popularity, Kotor is still a cheap destination with a beer averaging €1.5 – €2.5, cool drinks €1.5 – €2.5, meals at €4 – €7 and accommodation from €30 – €100 depending on your level of comfort. Two sun beds and an umbrella at a nearby beach will set you back €10 for the day and the rental of a small car will be €40 – €60 per day. You can get a sim card with 100gb of data for €10 and admission to museums and other sightseeing places will cost you €1 – €2.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Jeanne from Learning to Breathe Abroad.

28. Chisinau, Moldova

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Chisinau, Moldova is one of the cheapest city break destinations in Europe. It’s a quiet, green and nice city that has a unique mix of cultures: Romanian, Russian and Ukrainian.

The official language of Moldova is Romanian, however, pretty much all the people speak Russian as well. English is not so common in Moldova, however, many restaurants have menus in English and Romanian language is a bit similar to Italian, so it’s not that complicated to understand the menu or the signs in case there’s no English translation.

Moldovan cuisine is also a mix of Romanian, Ukrainian and Russian cuisines. The restaurants in Chisinau usually have huge menus that include a lot of different dishes and the prices are usually very low! Chisinau is a paradise for budget travellers, as you can definitely afford luxury for less there. In one of the best restaurant chains of Chisinau called La Placinte you can eat a feast for two for very little money (for 2 starters, 1 pie, 2 mains, 1l of wine, 2 lemonades, dessert and fresh fruits we paid around 350 lei or £16).

Wine is generally very cheap in Moldova (Moldova used to be famous for its wine in the USSR) and there is a very interesting winery to visit in Chisinau – Cricova winery, where you can do a wine tasting. Also, hotels and any accommodation are cheap in Chisinau, so you can even stay in a 5* hotel for the price of a 2*-3* hotel somewhere in a more expensive country in Europe.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Liza from Tripsget.

29. Bratislava, Slovakia

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Having been twice in the last 12 months, Bratislava is now one of my favourite cities in Europe. Add to this the fact that a pint of beer can be found for just 1 euro and you’ll see why I already have another visit planned for next year.

An iconic hilltop castle towers proudly above the city, giving incredible views to those that visit, which is free! The old town is winding cobbled streets with cute coffee shops and amazing eateries. You can find Zemiakové placky for just a couple of Euros at any traditional restaurant. It is a Slovak favourite: potato pancakes fried in oil with garlic and flour – and it is delicious!

Another fantastic viewpoint can be found atop the architectural masterpiece aptly named UFO Tower – a futuristically styled building found on the riverbank. Speaking of the riverbank, one of the most cost-effective ways to stay in Bratislava is to stay in one of the many ‘botels’ that are permanently moored up in a beautiful setting. The rooms tend to be twins or doubles, so taking a friend may help split the cost.

I advise you to move fast before this undiscovered paradise becomes more popular. My flight from the UK was just £13 each way! Overall, Bratislava is an easily accessible low-priced gem in the crown of the Danube.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Alan from More Passport Stamps.

30. Yerevan, Armenia

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Not many people know much about Armenia other than the fact that the Kardashians and Cher hailed from this tiny country of 2.9 million.

An understated large metropolis with stunning hole-in-the-wall street cafes and great Armenian beer and food makes Yerevan one of the most overlooked cities in Europe. Unlike any other city of what you may think of a former Soviet country, Yerevan is often teeming with trendy local joints melded with the city’s interesting past that appeals to a different kind of traveller.

You can travel on a shoestring budget over here and still live lavishly. An average pint of beer costs 400 AMD (€0.80) and on average a guesthouse or hostel costs around 4,900AMD (€8 to €9).

Transportation is a breeze in Yerevan, Armenia. You will see a vast variety of buses and marshrutky (mini buses), but the most easiest way to get around is by metro. It costs approximately 100 AMD (€0.20) per ride regardless of distance, making it one of the cheapest mode of transport in the city. It is almost impossible to get lost as there is only one line, giving you access to all the major sight-seeing points such as the museums and art galleries while learning more about the Soviet era buildings. To see more of Armenia, you could go on a road trip across the Caucasus starting from Yerevan.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Pashmina from The Gone Goat.

31. Tallinn, Estonia

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Tallinn, Estonia’s vibrant capital, is a fascinating mix of culture and adventure. From dining on dumplings to visiting museums, you’ll find plenty to do in this northern European city.

Tallinn’s Old Town, now a UNESCO world heritage site, is an impressively well-preserved medieval city. Spend a day wandering its cobbled streets, visiting historic churches, and stopping off at cosy cafes.

Tallinn is a compact city, so it’s easy to explore on foot. But despite how comfortable Tallinn is to visit, it’s significantly cheaper than other European cities. Dinner at Kompressor, a popular ‘pancake pub’, cost me less than €7. And a pint of beer can cost anything from €2 – €5, depending on where you decide to drink.

With its red-roofed buildings and overflowing flower pots, Tallinn’s old town is a colourful place in the summer months. But if you want to escape the city, head for the seaside area of Pirita. On sunny days, boats float down the river and the beach is a refreshing place to relax.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Grace from The Idyll.

32. Belgrade, Serbia

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In terms of affordability, Belgrade hits on many top points for getting a cheap city break with a lot to do.

One of the things that surprised me about Belgrade was that it has such a burgeoning food scene. You can get some great top quality meals for reasonable prices and if you are willing to go more local you can get easily get a great dinner for under £10 per person. As an example of food prices, the highly rated Balkan restaurant Ambar also has an outpost in Washington DC, but there you would have to spend at least double to get the same meal you would be able to get in Belgrade.

During the day, there are a lot of sights you can visit, from the imposing Belgrade Fortress, the massive Church of St. Stava, explore brutalist architecture, or visit the Yugoslavian leader Tito’s grave site.

Spending the night in Belgrade also won’t break the bank, with central highly rated hotels able to be found for under £40 per night.

With thanks to fellow travel blogger Anwar from Beyond My Front Door.

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10 Comments

  1. What a wonderful list! I so agree with you about Warsaw. I am going back this summer for my fifth time. It’s so beautiful, so European and so affordable. I also went to Gdansk last year and loved it. I am intrigued by both Tbilisi and Bucharest. But I am the most intrigued by Funchal. You keep on writing about it, and that’s a good thing, but it’s hard to reach from the US because we have to fly to Lisbon first. Have you been to the Azores? We now have a direct flight from New York to Ponta Delgada which I took advantage of last July. It was breathtaking with all the hydrangeas in bloom. Keep up the good work. I enjoy traveling vicariously through you.

    1. Hi James, glad you like the list – it’s taken FOREVER to put together. Funchal is rather a special one to me so I do go on about it a lot. It’s a pain to get to unless you live in Europe though. Not done the Azores yet but I understand it’s quite similar to Madeira! It’s on my list, along with far far too many other places to get through… Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Tallin it is not so cheap as you wrote. Beer cost in old town more than 2-5€ . It cost 5-9€. One night in hotel cost about 100 € and more.
    Cause you like Skandinavia you should come to Finland. Its not cheap but very trendy place to go on thesedays.
    I visited last year in Peak Distric and love it. Thanks for many good tips 😃

    1. Hi Sepe, it’s not me who wrote it – it’s another travel blogger, as this is a collaborative post with lots of others. Grace must have done some good research to find bargains!

      I am coming to Finland this year and can’t wait. Any tips?

  3. What an amazing list! I have been to Bulgaria a number of times. It’s a beautiful country, really affordable to get there, and really cheap once you are there. Athens is at the top of my 2019 travel list (my husband and I are trying to find an excuse for a romantic getaway). Budapest looks amazing too! It’s amazing what you can find if you do a bit of research and shop around. This is an excellent guide, thank you! xxx

    1. Thank you! Glad you liked it. I would love to return to Bulgaria – I always recommend it to everyone. Athens looks great too. We almost went a couple of years ago but chose Malta instead, which was a mistake as we didn’t like it at all. xx

      1. Why didn’t you like Malta? I was actually in Valletta one day as part of a cruise. It’s got interesting architecture but I didn’t get to see much because a friend I was with got sick. But I’m curious as to why you didn’t like it. I have a couple of friends who didn’t like it either; they said the people weren’t friendly.

        1. Devoid of identity (a strange mix of Italian, British and something else?), full of red phoneboxes and other horrible reminders of British influence, very car-oriented, lacking nice places for a drink… Just not my kind of thing at all – although the food was brilliant and we ate really well so at least there’s that!

  4. Can I suggest Tarragona and Tortosa for a potential trip? Loads to see and really cheap to fly to Reus. I’ve just got back and it was fab.

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